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Julia Fox: Adam Sandler really believed in me”

Volume 4 Issue 002: The underground star who steals the show in the new Safdie brothers movie.

Arti­cle taken from The Face Volume 4 Issue 002. Order your copy here.

On a Monday night in Los Angeles, members of the Screen Actors Guild are packing the Landmark theatre for the city’s first showing of Uncut Gems, the latest movie from indie filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie. Everyone is calling upon their most territorial instincts to secure seats, boxing out their bodies and sharpening their elbows. 

Safdie movies are a wild ride. Their plots follow tortured, often unseemly, heroes on journeys filled with relentless conflict. Everything always goes wrong, but their protagonists never give up. There’s humour, even during moments of emotional evisceration. Everybody is always authentic and the moral binary of good” vs bad” is always destroyed. Despite their fluid shooting style and distinctive scores by the musical likes of Ariel Pink and Oneohtrix Point Never, Safdie films feel more like real life than artifice. 

Their new movie deserves our excitement. Uncut Gems – a crime thriller about New York’s diamond district, gambling and the NBA – welcomes Adam Sandler into the Safdie universe with a much-­anticipated, first dramatic role since 2017’s The Meyerowitz Stories. Sandler plays Howard, a jeweller and a gambling addict who parlays his way into bigger bets with increasingly high stakes throughout the movie, inciting a series of gut-wrenching all-or nothing moments that make the story gripping beyond belief. Uncut Gems is the kind of film you want to end because of the unbearable weight of its tension, and then immediately miss once it’s over. 

Dress CDLM and chain belt Marni

As well as Sander, there are plenty of non-pros cast in this film (including tons of dudes who actually worked, or continue to work, in the diamond district), but it’s Julia Fox who stands out as Howard’s shopgirl and mistress (named Julia in her honour). She mirrors his cunning ability to hustle and is the exact opposite of a damsel in distress. She’s alluring, lucid, empathetic and the kind of tough that gives strong people like Howard the permission to be weak. She’s the only character Howard bares his soul to, and the only one who shows him any real compassion. To put it in the terms of Scorsese’s Casino (Scorsese executive produced Uncut Gems), she’s the Ginger to Sandler’s Ace Rothstein. Except Julia has better luck.

Like her character, Fox can hustle. Born in Milan to an Italian mother, she moved to New York as a six-year-old with her native-New Yorker father. She played mother to him in between roaming the city streets by herself, gaining her smarts as an independent and relatively unsupervised child. She sold drugs to rich kids and worked as a professional dominatrix as a teenager. She co-founded the tastefully sexy fashion line Franziska Fox and successfully schemed” to get celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, Sharon Stone and Kylie Jenner in her clothes. She moved into fine art, imagining her own funeral with the multimedia exhibition R.I.P. Julia Fox that was inspired by her overdose at 17 and included illustrations drawn with her own blood. 

Little wonder that a lot of New York tastemakers considered Fox a legend long before she became an actor. 

Jacket and shorts Miu Miu

After the Uncut Gems screening in LA, Fox is announced first, not only because it’s her first major motion picture role, but because it’s her first acting ­experience, period (for which she’s already been nominated for Breakthrough Actor in the Independent Filmmaker Project’s Gotham Awards). The aspiring actors in attendance want to know how she prepared for the role. Did she take any acting classes? Work with a tutor?

Fox shakes her head: No… I’m really talented,” she explains, summarising it all quite simply. The crowd laughs. It’s funny because it’s true: Fox stands out amid the Uncut Gems ensemble – quite a feat given that the cast includes Broadway icon Idina Menzel and NBA legend Kevin Garnett. Hers is the kind of performance that makes people say she steals” scenes from other actors, including Sandler, who’s receiving considerable Oscar buzz for his dramatic turn as Howard.

I feel like Adam really believed in me and let me do my thing. He would steer the ship but let me shine, you know?” she tells me at a Starbucks a few days after the screening. She’s wearing a black cotton Calvin Klein set and is unmade-up. When people are like, You’re so good,’ it’s like: Well, yeah, I had the best teacher ever.’”

  • Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.”  Adam Sandler really believed in me. He would steer the ship but let me shine.” 

Fox considers the Safdie brothers friends, and heard about the role in Uncut Gems for so long before shooting that she eventually stopped paying it much attention. They’d been talking to me about this role for five years or something,” she says. Always telling me how perfect I am for it, and every few months they would send me an updated script, or ask me if I had any input in developing the character. I didn’t realise the magnitude of Uncut Gems at the time. I just thought: Oh, an indie movie that my friends are making.’” 

When the bigger studios got involved, they wanted a famous actress to play Julia, but the Safdies pushed for her to screen test with Sandler. The two met at luxury department store Barneys New York, where the directors filmed them improvising in a dressing room. Fox won the part over 300 others. 

People keep commenting on the chaotic vibe of the movie, but I’m like: That’s just a New York tale.’ There’s something always happening in New York, at every corner. My default state has always been anxiety. I didn’t know anything else.”

New York has been harsh on her: Fox has gone through a lot, including an abusive relationship that made its way into the local tabloids. Now she just prays for the universe to connect her with people whose stories need to be told”. She likes going apple picking, says her favourite meal is the banana pudding from Sugar Sweet Sunshine bakery and she might move to LA. She never wanted to be an actress but never doubted she could be an actress.

It was funny, I was getting ready for the red carpet in Toronto with my husband Peter,” she says. He’s a simple guy from Brooklyn, not really in this Hollywood world at all. We’re getting ready and I’m giving him a pep talk, and he’s like: ‘‘Well, you know, I’m going to be nervous around all these celebrities and actors.’ I looked at him and said: Babe, remember, they play us in movies.’”

Hair Clayton Hawkins, Makeup Dena Delaney, Producer Rosanna Gouldman


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